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Why Has Biking Become So Popular?


Pedaling in the pandemic. Studies show bike ridership is increasing.

Over the past few months during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have read numerous articles about the surge in sales of bicycles within the US. With headlines such as What do Bikes and Toilet Paper Have in Common... or Thinking of Buying a Bike, Get Ready for a Very Long Wait, among others. All of it got me to thinking, why has biking become so popular? It is a strange phenomenon when you consider the situation. Cars are suddenly not illegal to use. In the few times I have driven during this pandemic traffic is easier to navigate.​


Increasing numbers of people are resorting to using a bicycle for transporting groceries.

My theory is that the virus has precipitated a fundamental rethinking of what it means to get around. Let’s start with destinations that accompany most journeys. For me, commuting to/from work was a regular part of most of my days. Ironically, I did that mostly by bicycle. And as I am now working from home, I am actually riding less miles. There were also visits to the YMCA and meeting up with the running group on the weekends. Add in worship services and volunteer meetings, etc. and almost every destination that was important to me in the past, has suddenly become off-limits.

Yesterday, I actually met face to face (safe distancing of course) with a co-worker who I had not seen in months. After exchanging pleasantries, she mentioned with relief, “it’s nice to have a destination.” And it hit me: there is a SHIFT in our daily destinations – and a realization that we can get there on a bike, not a car.


This need to get out and get somewhere with purpose. What are the destinations we have right now? Grocery, pharmacy, take-out, maybe the hardware – practical things that are hopefully close to home and all of which are accessible by foot or by bicycle. In fact, the number of times I have driven over the past few months have been a fraction of the pre-COVID era. Given this change in end points, my sense is that individuals are reevaluating what can they reach under their own power and questioning, “how do I actually get around?”


Most of you already ride regularly. I'm curious to hear your perspective on the surge in biking. Will the change last - what do you think? Has your riding changed during the pandemic?


Take the 3 minute survey below and I'll share the results in an upcoming article. ​​


I suspect that perceived safety is also a reason for increased bicycle usage. It is well documented that many people are reluctant ride a bicycle on city streets due to safety concerns. With less cars on the road, it feels safer. And again, many cities are responding by closing selected streets to car traffic and dedicated them as pedestrian and bicycle only streets. Numerous cities have implemented this "Slow Street" approach including Oakland, Minneapolis, Denver, Louisville, New York, Philadelphia The decreased congestion and dedicated streets show us what is possible. Perhaps our cities in the U.S. will not become the cyclist nirvana of Copenhagen, but can you imagine a world where all of our streets are safe and accommodating for cyclists and pedestrians?

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Perhaps the last reason for the increased usage is health and concerns with public transportation. My own employer recently asked us to continue to work from home through August. The rationale was to avoid the need for employees to take public transportation into the Chicago loop. I wonder if many people are seeing the bicycle as a way healthier way to commute.


There is another dimension to the health issue. After being cooped-up for hours on virtual calls and online activities, I personally feel a need to get outside for some sort of exercise or at least motion. Riding a bicycle is an incredible sense of freedom and it appears many people are starting to discover or rediscover that joy. I hope that you are among them!

 

As some of you know, during the past two years, I have taken a break from writing articles on bicycle commuting and relevant trends. Instead, I have been working with a dedicated team on an innovative product based on my personal frustration with finding an easy and quiet way to carry a u-lock and other items on a bicycle. I'll share more about the back story in a future article. If you really cannot wait, please click the link in the nearby picture for more details.


​Safe riding!

 

If you like the article, please give it a share on Facebook or Twitter to help spread the word! ​

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